4 Books on Latin American and Latino
art A Shelfie from Selene Preciado, Program Assistant
I’m Selene Preciado, program assistant at the Getty Foundation. Outside of my
work at the Getty, I am an independent curator of Latin American and Latino
anticipation of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, this selection of books is
inspired by the initiative’s effort on advancing the fields of Latin American
and Latino art history by promoting their dialogue, as these are often
perceived as separate fields of study albeit sharing narratives and historical
contexts. One of the strongest points of convergence between the two fields is
in the strategies of conceptual artists, particularly in arte de acción or performance, which has been a significant area of
production in the Americas since the sixties.
exhibition catalogue for Arte No es Vida:
Actions by Artists of the Americas at El Museo del Barrio is one of the
most comprehensive compilations on performance art by Latino and Latin American
artists, and it includes a detailed chronology of the most important actions
since 1957 until the year 2000. The exhibition was also a curatorial laboratory
for exploring the problem of exhibiting performance—a time-based medium—through
documentation, video, ephemera, and objects.
432-page tome is the most important document on the East Los Angeles collective
ASCO (1972–1987), produced on the occasion of the major retrospective organized
as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945–1980 in 2011.
But don’t let its girth intimidate you—the exhibition catalogue is very
dynamic, fully illustrated, and contains about twenty essays of different
lengths and topics, such as ASCO’s walking murals, collaborations, or
“No-movies,” as well as a section on documents and extensive bibliographic information.
book was edited by theorist, curator, and artist Coco Fusco, whose work since
the 1980s has explored postcolonial, gender, and race issues. Corpus Delecti is an excellent resource
and one of the very first performance art surveys that bridged together regions
and movements by including art from Latin American, Chicana/o, and Caribbean
artists, as well as genres that blurred the lines between fine arts, theater,
vaudeville, and staged political protest.
ASCO: Elite of the Obscure, this catalogue
was published in conjunction with the groundbreaking exhibition MEX/LA, part of
Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945–1980, and organized by the Museum of
Latin American Art. Just like the exhibition, this catalogue is an
unconventional and thought-provoking approach to telling the story of the
relationship between Mexico and Los Angeles.
Departing from forked origins—from
the mythological location of Aztlán, the founding of L.A. as a “Latin American city” (since it was Mexican territory back in 1781), to the presence of Mexican
muralists in the 1930s who ignited local production—it visits chapters in L.A.’s
history that explore exchange, remix, appropriation, and ongoing negotiations
of race, class, and gender. Through the work of Chicana/o artists like ASCO, Barbara
Carrasco, Yolanda López, and Ricardo Valverde, as well as Americans such as
Wallace Berman, the Eames, or Millard Sheets, MEX/LA pushed boundaries also in
exhibition making. Its non-chronological, non-thematic approach consisted in
connecting artists and artworks through ideas.
While this text doesn’t solely focus on performance art, The
MEX/LA catalogue might be the unifying thread in
that it offers a critical view on hybrid and shifting identities as performative
constructs. You only have to take a look into the performativity of figures
such as Robert Stacy-Judd, the Zoot Suiters (a counterculture of the
1930s–40s), or even the borrowed Maya elements in the architecture of Frank
Lloyd Wright—all included in the particular universe of MEX/LA. The concepts
explored in the exhibition and catalogue of MEX/LA are part of the origin story
of what is now Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.